Kenya’s crude oil is reported to be among the best in the world according to preliminary tests carried out by the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum.
Officials say that the preliminary tests, also carried out by different companies exploring in Turkana, shows that the oil has low sulfur content and density. This means that the oil is sweet and light which are key quality measures for premium crude oil.
Crude oil is usually classified as either sweet or sour for sulfur content, and light or heavy for density. Crude oil density is measured using the American Petroleum Institute (API) Gravity Standard. Oil with an API of over 30 degrees Fahrenheit is light while those with an API of 20 degrees or less is considered heavy.
For sulfur, oils with high content, usually over 0.5 percent of the total weight, is considered sour and anything less than 0.5 percent is considered sweet.
This directly affects costs and production as heavy crude is costlier to extract and refine as compared to light and sweet crude. It also yields more petroleum products per barrel compared to heavy sour crude.
Kenya’s crude oil was found to have an API Gravity of between 25 and 38 degrees according to the preliminary tests. Its sulfur content also falls within the under 0.5 percent mark, making it quite light and sweet as well as highly rated.
The oil is, however, waxy with a high pour point. It stops flowing at fairly low temperatures, meaning it needs heated transport and storage facilities.
An unnamed Ministry of Energy official explained that the waxiness is not a major issue of concern due to its occurrence in both light and heavy crude oil.
Tullow Oil, Kenya BV Communications Manager Timothy Tororey said:
“The crude oil is sweet – it does not have sulfur. It is also a little heavy also known as waxy. The crude oil is of good quality according to Tullow’s tests.”
Tullow has already produced 60,000 barrels of oil which are held in storage tanks at Lokichar. They will be among the first barrels that will be taken to Mombasa under the early oil production program.
Energy and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter said the government has set $43 (about Ksh4,300) per barrel as a break-even price for its pilot program which will start in June.
The Government has also set aside Ksh 2 billion in the 2017/2018 Budget for LPG Exploration and Distribution and KSh3.84 billion for exploration and distribution of oil and gas.